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Policies and Procedures – Getting Rid of the Language Barrier

Question:

Am I required to provide my policies and notices to employees in a language other than English?

Answer:

The bottom line answer is “no”, however, the smart answer is “YES”!

It would be next to impossible to enforce policies and procedures if an employer knows its employees cannot read them due to a language barrier. A plaintiff’s attorney would have a field day with any attempt to discipline or terminate a non-English speaking employee that didn’t follow a policy / procedure correctly, arguing that it is unreasonable, unfair, and possibly a violation of Title VII to “discriminate” against employees who cannot speak English, and therefore cannot read the policies / procedures. Additionally, the EEOC might well see this as impermissible national origin discrimination.

If an employer knows that some of its employees are not fluent in English it is advisable that notices are provided in English and the other language to make sure communication is clear. This will ensure that policies, procedures and any other notifications are understood by ALL of your employees and that you are providing non-discriminatory communication.

Bottom line…if your organization has not provided a strong business necessity for employees to only communicate in English in the workplace and you are aware that there are employees who are unable to communicate well in English, it is in your best interest to provide policies and procedures in their native language.

Do you need help with communications? Do you need policies and procedures or job descriptions written? Thinking about starting a company newsletter or needing to create recruitment materials? Strategic HR, inc. can help. Visit our Communications page to learn more.